MANILA, PHILIPPINES -ADB today marked the start of a worldwide Decade of Action for Road Safety with a call for governments to tackle Asia and the Pacific's disproportionately high rate of road fatalities and serious injuries.

"With its admirable economic growth rates, vehicle fleets in Asia and the Pacific are set to double every four to five years," ADB's Vice-President Bindu Lohani said at a launch event here. "However, this growth need not be accompanied by an equally high and unnecessary loss of life on the region's roads and highways."

An estimated 1.18 million fatal road accidents occur globally each year, 60% of which take place in Asia and the Pacific. The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 aims to stem projected increases in road accidents, averting an estimated three million fatalities and 120 million injuries in the region over the next decade.

Mr. Lohani noted that poor sectors of society are generally overlooked in the transport planning process. This means they are left with few options but to travel by foot and therefore bear the brunt of road traffic deaths and injuries. However, he cited how simple measures such as enforcement of helmet and seat belt laws can save lives.

The launch of the campaign at ADB headquarters in Manila is part of a series of events taking place in more than 90 countries around the world. The Manila event was attended by high-level representatives from the Philippines, including Secretary of Transportation and Communications Jose de Jesus; Secretary of Public Works and Highways Rogelio Singson; Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Francisco Tolentino; and Congressman Roger Mercado.

With nearly a third of its lending dedicated to transport projects, ADB has developed a Road Safety Action Plan which promotes safety in the planning, design, construction and operation of all ADB assistance to its developing member countries. The plan includes components for infrastructure and policy support, such as crash barriers, central median barriers, and pedestrian facilities, in addition to legislative, enforcement and public education programs.